Forks of The Kern

The most spectacular wilderness Class V rafting in the Country


3 Days (2 Day Option)


Varies - April -Early July


Class V:
For the experienced rafters in good physical condition. Minimum age 16




Rafting / Hiking


Kernville - Bakersfield, CA / 3 Hours from L.A.


Wofford Heights, CA

The Forks Of the Kern combines almost continuous Class IV whitewater punctuated with big Class V drops – nearly 100 rapids concentrated in 18 miles of river, with towering waterfalls, granite side canyons, world-class fly fishing, and epic riverside camping. Drop all that into a pristine, inaccessible, and breathtakingly beautiful alpine canyon of massive granite slabs topped by pine-lined ridges, and you can see why many regard the Forks of the Kern as the greatest class V wilderness trip in the country.

Flowing out of the Golden Trout Wilderness, the ‘Forks’ section begins at the confluence of the North Fork of the Kern and the Little Kern. At over 4,600 feet, the canyon has an alpine feel and few California rivers are runnable at such a high elevation. Not far below our launch point, the dramatic granite spires of The Needles soar more than 3,000 feet above the river adding to the unmistakable Sierra Nevada feel.

The whitewater is comparable in difficulty to rivers like Chile’s Rio Futaleufu and Africa’s Zambezi, but the style is completely California. Smooth granite boulders strewn throughout the river form long and complex stairstep rapids, with clean sharp drops and very few pools. Most of the Forks is challenging, but three of the biggest Class V’s – Vortex, Confusion, and Carson Falls – are particularly memorable. Mile for mile, no stretch of whitewater in North America compares.

With a two-mile hike down into the canyon, the Forks is an adventure from the start. Mules carry the bulk of the river gear but guests and guides carry their own overnight bags and paddles. However, even with the hike in, tight weight restrictions, and the challenges of big and continuous whitewater, our Forks trips are still done with Momentum’s signature style, attention to detail, and handcrafted quality. The camping is comfortable with creative menus, personal service and hospitality, and one of the most experienced (and friendly) guide staffs in the world.

Our standard itinerary is 3-days, allowing for time to unwind, explore, scout and pick our way through the whitewater, and truly experience one of the country’s most spectacular river canyons. We also make time for side excursions like Peppermint Creek Falls and the famous “Seven Teacups” of Dry Meadow Creek.  We do offer 2-day trips for charter groups but we recommend them only if time is too much of a constraint. Once there, the Forks is not a place people want to rush through.

This is an extremely active high adventure trip. Participants need to be adventurous, physically fit, and comfortable swimming in moving water. Previous Class IV paddling experience is preferred but not always required. We will do a phone screening prior to making the first deposit, and participants will need to pass a Class V Paddler’s Test at the beginning of the trip. The tests are not competitive in any way. They are done to emphasize teamwork, build confidence, and help you judge your ability to tackle this incredible stretch of river.

There are no dams on the free-flowing Upper Kern, and it drains the highest peak in the Sierra so the best time to go varies widely with snowpack and weather. The season generally falls between May and early July, but it can start earlier in low snowpack years or not until July or even later in higher snowpack years. Due to the short and variable season and extremely limited space, we recommend filling out the inquiry form, calling, or emailing to get on our Forks list early. We’ll reach out with updates in early March, and then as soon as we are confident on dates we’ll contact everyone on the list and open up bookings.

The words “Forks of the Kern’ or simply ‘The Forks’ are always said with a bit of reverence among guides and river runners. The Forks is an exciting, extremely beautiful, and magical place. And a place we love to show people – Please reach out with any questions.


• A small guide owned and operated company committed to amazing trips & our wild places.
• Safety: We have one of the most experienced guide staffs top to bottom in the country.
• An itinerary that allows for the time and flexibility to truly see the best of this whitewater playground
• All-inclusive: including all river gear, camping gear, & wetsuits, - you just need clothes and a toothbrush.
• Overall comfort: Innovative wilderness camping & our signature hospitality.
• A remote and difficult river that highlights our guiding experience, expedition roots, & attention to detail.
• Most importantly - we are friendly, we love what we do, and we love showing people wild places.

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